We left off at the end of week 2 with the understanding that perseverance under trials has a goal. That goal is so that we will be mature and complete, not lacking anything. We start off week 3 with James seeking to answer this charge in regards to wisdom. The understanding of knowledge and wisdom have always been a little bit elusive to me. They both relate to each other but seem to also have distinct differences. To the best of my “knowledge”, to know something is to have an education about a subject; to be taught, to be able to write the correct answer on a test. Wisdom, on the other hand, is influenced by knowledge but relates specifically to the carrying out of such knowledge in a real and practical sense. Perhaps, this is exactly why James has started this portion of the verse the way he did.
Going through trials, knowing that it will develop perseverance, and that there is a goal in mind is definitely a head knowledge type of exercise. If you sat someone down, who’s life is relatively easy and comfortable, and gave them a quiz and asked them if they knew that the testing of their faith develops perseverance and that it must finish its work in order to be complete, they would most likely answer, “Yes.” However, living out that kind of reality is not easy and takes something deeper than head knowledge. Emotions, doubt, and being uncomfortable all cloud our cognitive efforts to live out what we know, which, if it didn’t, would make us wise.
Then we keep moving through the verses and understanding that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God. Of course!!! It seems so easy and the unbelievable part … it is! God gives generously to all. That’s not so hard to understand. There are numerous accounts in the Bible where He proves himself faithful in being generous. And He doesn’t find fault. Wait! Back up! Let’s talk about this. He doesn’t find fault?
I like to think of God as a realist. He knows what’s happening throughout eternity and has everything under control. He doesn’t sugar coat, but Jesus certainly had a way with people that was the epitome of teaching the truth in love. But to think that God doesn’t find fault is a little hard to swallow. To me it seems a little naive of Him to not find fault. I did a little bit of digging and the other translations use words like “upbraideth not” and “without reproach”. After studying the definitions, it seems to me that a more clear understanding would be that he treats us like we are without fault. God doesn’t address us with disappointment or disapproval. So perhaps its not that He is naive, but more along the lines that “love covers a multitude of sins.” (which we will see much later on )
When Julie comes to me in a spirit of humility and asks me to teach her something or to counsel her, it certainly would not behoove me to treat her with contempt. Many times the Bible eludes to the fact that God gives grace to the humble, or lifts them up. When we go to God in sincerity and ask for wisdom, I love that He will give generously and treats us in such a way that He doesn’t think of our past and remembers our faults.
But … A little reminder from James after such a beautiful passage. Just like Uncle Harry says, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” With this at our fingertips, we must remember God’s character and trust Him. If we come to Him and doubt that He will give us wise counsel, it would be better not to ask Him at all. I liked James’ use of the imagery of a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. It fits very well with the idea of persevering. A wave doesn’t persevere at all. It has no goal in mind. We should remember that in order to reach our goal, we must continue along a path with conviction. Knowing that God will guide us down that path with wisdom is a huge comfort. But … we need to believe in Him, and given his record, that is very easy to do.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But, when he asks, he should believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.